Building Inclusive Brands and Services
In 2020, WBA stated its commitment to supporting social justice and championing the health and wellness of everyone equally and equitably. We knew that for our message to have real meaning, we must take swift and purposeful action. We launched an effort to listen, learn and act. Since that moment, we have been walking the talk, from our efforts to increase access to COVID-19 testing and vaccine administration in underserved communities to our supplier diversity program to responding to the beauty needs of our Black, Hispanic and Asian customers.
Further, to ensure a customer voice and support our team of in-store beauty advisors, we also established the No7 DE&I Advisory Board: a diverse group of beauty advisors who come together to share feedback, experiences and ideas on how we can continue to hold ourselves accountable for an inclusive customer experience.
We are a global leader in retail pharmacy, touching millions of lives every day. We know that we have a platform to influence others and, with it, a responsibility to stand up and speak up for change. As we always have, today we’re doing what great brands and great companies do: we’re going after tough problems and using our scale and resources to drive change for the better.
Serving Our Diverse Communities
As a global, pharmacy-led healthcare company, we are committed to helping ensure the safety and well-being of our team members, customers and patients around the world. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we provided trusted advice and health expertise, worked to ensure access to testing and vaccines, especially in underserved communities. We took an early and firm stand on the issue of healthcare inequities, working to ensure access for our most vulnerable through community, not-for-profit, and civic partnerships, education and transportation.
Throughout it all, our team members provided – and continue to provide – essential services on the frontlines of COVID-19, making the safety and well-being of our customers and patients a top priority.
Living Our Purpose
With no playbook or rules of engagement, we relied on our purpose “to help people across the world lead healthier and happier lives” to guide our way through the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. Our pharmacies and stores, distribution centers and wholesale operations stayed open worldwide to provide essential healthcare services, medications and consumer goods.
From the start, we collaborated with government and industry partners to implement COVID-19 testing sites to serve our millions of customers and patients around the world, placing a special emphasis on ensuring that the most vulnerable in our communities had access to services and quality care. More than 70 percent of our Walgreens COVID-19 testing locations operate in underserved areas, based on data from the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index. Not only did our stores and pharmacies remain open throughout the crisis but Boots also helped with translation and mobile testing in hard-to-reach areas. Additionally, Boots supported the UK’s overall COVID-19 testing program, helping ease pressure on the National Health Service (NHS) and conducting more than 2.1 million tests by the end of December 2020.
Encouraging Vaccine Uptake
We also leaned on our pharmacists in Walgreens, the biggest and best resource we have to help engage with Black communities. We have more than 85,000 healthcare service providers throughout the United States, including pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, nurse practitioners and other health-related professionals. That’s critical, because our pharmacists and technicians are already in these communities, they are trusted by their patients, and they look like them. Approximately 78 percent of the U.S. population lives within five miles of a Walgreens or Duane Reade store, so that enables people to engage with a person they already know and trust to provide vaccine information and shots.
"Walgreen’s pharmacists are trusted healthcare resources in the communities they serve and can help build trust in the vaccine… to encourage everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine once eligible.”
- Patrick McLean, Senior Vice President
and Chief Marketing Officer, Walgreens
Bringing Vaccinations to Some of the Most Hesitant Communities
From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, WBA sought to ensure the equitable distribution of testing and vaccination. That commitment continues today with mobile clinics and vaccination hubs aimed at vaccinating more people in the most underserved and hesitant communities. In some locations, we’re also partnering with churches and community centers to offer walk-up vaccinations in locations our neighbors trust the most.
Making the Invisible Visible
"The Sunflower is vital in ensuring everyone feels comfortable and supported. Members of the public that have come to us displaying the Sunflower have been grateful that we’re doing our bit to make their experience the best it can be."
- Mae Hughes, Immunization Assistant at Boots Gloucester store.
Empowering All Women
We featured Eva Echo, a transgender woman, in our Boots UK Health & Beauty magazine, which proudly celebrated women from all walks of life. Eva faced a wave of unwarranted, transphobic comments that questioned her inclusion in the article. Without hesitation, Boots stood with the trans community. Taking a zero-tolerance approach to prejudice, Echo’s inclusion was a statement of progress, a lesson in acceptance, and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Lifeline for Victims of Domestic Abuse
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a disturbing increase in cases of domestic violence against women. Now, a domestic abuse victim simply has to say an established code phrase at any Boots UK pharmacy and they will discreetly signal that they need help and access to support.
Building Brands That Represent Our Customers
To be successful, we must develop a deeper understanding of, and respond to, our Black and minority customers. The racial equity movement put a spotlight on underserved communities, and it helped accelerate our plans to broaden our product categories to meet the needs of all of our customers more effectively.
At No7 Beauty Company, DE&I is embedded in everything we do, from the way we research and test products to the color shades we produce to how we advertise the brands. And, with an ethical supplier partnership plan, we are helping small businesses grow and succeed.
To start, we broadened our testing panels to include more people of color. This gave us a deep understanding of skin types and tones and enabled us to build a more representative and inclusive shade offering, including foundations, concealers, powders, blushers and bronzers. Across the total face category, we are introducing 120 new shades or shade updates to offer a total of 480. We also shifted our naming convention and classification to ensure cultural appropriateness and we used diverse imagery and messaging in our brand relaunch.
This is just the beginning. We will continue listening and applying what we learn to our skin care lines and other products until all of our brands are authentically diverse and truly representative of the communities we serve.
Directed by filmmaker Otis Dominique, I Am Divine showcases British changemakers such as Vogue journalist and author Yomi Adegoke; creative, writer, performer and LGBTQ+ advocate Darkwah Keyi-Darkwah; and financial wellness coach Bola Sol.
They candidly discuss the role makeup plays in their own individualism and how self-care has driven meaningful change to them and their communities. This campaign marks the brand’s wider commitment to using its communications channels to reach and recognize all the different people and communities it serves.
Marketing for Change
Formed last year, Marketing for Change is a team of global diverse marketers working together to ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are at the center of our marketing efforts. To inform their approach, the group held listening tours with more than 500 marketing team members around the world. Based on feedback from these sessions, the team partnered with an outside market research consultant and Black-consumer subject matter expert to educate our marketing team about this segment’s shopping behaviors and experiences. The insights were used to inform marketing audits in beauty and upcoming audits in other areas across WBA.
Leveling Up with Sleek MakeUP
Educating About the Science Behind Beauty
They will be equipped to provide scientifically based, personalized advice for customers to ensure their individual skin and beauty needs are answered. The ground-breaking training program takes 9-12 months to complete and has been made available to No7 and Liz Earle Boots-based beauty advisors in the UK as of May 2021 and will start in the U.S. in 2022.
Bringing Together Diverse Customers and Suppliers
Building Relationships With Diverse Suppliers
At WBA, we’re not only striving to ensure that our products and services reflect the diversity of the communities around us, but we want to support diverse suppliers. More than just talk, we have a straightforward program and firm commitment. At WBA, supplier diversity is an integrated business practice. We proactively procure relevant products and services from diverse-owned and small businesses that mirror the diversity of the communities in which we operate.
We measure current diversity spend by looking at our overall spending and the availability of goods and services from diverse-owned and small businesses.
We encourage all team members and business leaders with purchasing authority and decision influence to consider diverse and small businesses in contract opportunities.
We encourage our prime (Tier 1) suppliers to establish supplier diversity programs and increase their utilization of diverse suppliers in their respective supply chains, providing additional opportunities for growth and economic development.
Expanding Our Relationships with Diverse Suppliers
Our commitment to supplier diversity began with a formal policy written by Charles Walgreen III in 1994 encouraging utilization of minority-owned and women-owned businesses. In 2007, we established a Supplier Diversity Department to advance our efforts. In 2021, WBA is proud to announce that now we’re expanding this commitment internationally with Boots UK. Our goal is to create equitable opportunities for diverse suppliers ultimately driving economic impact in the communities WBA serves.
“At WBA, we strive every day to help consumers around the world lead happier and healthier lives. Meeting these diverse needs relies on us championing inclusivity and diversity not only in how we work internally, but also critically, how we build powerful partnerships with a wide breadth of suppliers, allowing us to bring diverse brands and products to our customers everywhere.”
- Annie Murphy, Senior Vice President, Global Chief Commercial Brands Officer and International Retail, WBA and Global Executive Sponsor of WBA's Supplier Diversity Program
During fiscal year 2020, Walgreens engaged with or purchased from more than 2,100 diverse and small businesses in the U.S. These organizations continue to bring diverse and innovative ideas that support the overall partnership. In fiscal 2020, Walgreens purchases with diverse and small suppliers were more than $1.5 billion, including both Tier I and Tier II spend.
For fiscal 2021, we set a goal to drive even more engagement and spend with diverse and small suppliers. As of July 15, 2021, we are on track to achieve that goal, demonstrating WBA’s commitment to practicing inclusive sourcing and creating equitable opportunities for diverse and small businesses.
Natty Elias started her retail distribution business in and around Miami, supplying Latino-owned mom-and-pop stores with lotions and fragrances from a single baby care brand, Para Mi Bebe. Today, Healthtex provides hundreds of fiercely loved products to about 6,000 small and large retailers throughout Florida - including Walgreens, which in turn has made some of those products available in hundreds of stores in other states. What makes Healthtex unique is the emphasis Natty places on understanding the communities she serves and identifying the products they want. “These are brands that many of our Hispanic customers grew up with, which their moms and grandmothers have used and recommend,” said Beverly Lugo, category manager for multicultural goods, Walgreens. The most popular item Healthtex supplies to Walgreens is Dr. Sana camphor cubes for respiratory congestion, followed by Dr. Sana sodium bicarbonate powder – a heartburn remedy. But recently, something else cracked the top spots in Florida, appealing well beyond the Latino communities. Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic began, retailers were hit by a thermometer shortage. Enter Healthtex, which already was cleared by the FDA to import medical devices and had a contact in China that manufactured high-quality thermometers.
“When we didn’t have any thermometers in our South Florida stores at the end of May and beginning of June, we were able to bring those in through Healthtex. That’s the kind of partner they are. There was a need in the community, and they came to us, and we were able to get it executed.”
- Jeff Rubin, Regional Merchandise Manager, Walgreens, South Florida
Expanding Brands and Building Visibility
We must partner with diverse suppliers to stock the most relevant products in each store and online to best serve the needs of our customers in local communities. In 2020, we spent over $300 million with diverse suppliers in retail products. A great example is our partnership with KISS, a certified diverse supplier of beauty products, including lashes and nails. They’re currently growing at 32 percent versus the prior year by increasing the KISS assortment we offer and putting the brand in more stores. Further, we gave them more space for products that are selling really well. Today, they are our fastest-growing diverse supplier in Walgreens and one of our top growth beauty brands in total.
Leveling the Playing Field for Small, Minority-Owned Businesses
In partnership with the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) in Chicago, Ill., Walgreens continues to sponsor the Top Shelf capacity building program. The eight-week program helps minority-owned businesses learn how to partner with large retailers, such as Walgreens, and build their capacity to supply those retailers. Participants learn best practices in a range of critical areas, including risk mitigation, distribution and contracting. In the fall of 2020, 25 participants graduated from the program and to date, more than 60 diverse-owned businesses have graduated from the program overall. WBA’s supplier diversity efforts are helping a growing number of minority-owned and other diverse companies serve our stores and operations – and, in the process, grow their businesses and workforce.
Championing Our Diverse Partners
In July of 2020, we launched a Supplier Diversity Ambassador program with 39 individuals from across Walgreens to infuse our DE&I efforts throughout our retail business activities. Our Ambassadors are helping as facilitators, educators, motivators and champions to ensure we’re using inclusive sourcing practices, building a supplier base that reflects our customers and the communities we serve, and offering a diverse product assortment. Our partnership with RangeMe, a product discovery and sourcing platform, has helped our Merchants identify diverse suppliers and products that our customers and patients want and need.
“Our ambassadors support our DE&I agenda across the whole of our retail products business. They become our cultural advocates in every area of our business, from our supply chain to our brands to merchandising. And they ensure that we are living up to our values, that we’re delivering on our goals and most importantly that we’re delighting our customers.”